College Sports

Cheney girls build for another run at state championship

Cheney has been a nightmare for opposing girls basketball teams the past two seasons. Its 40-game win streak is proof.

A change in coaches hasn't even stopped the Cardinals. New coach Rod Scheer's offensive system was already in place last season when he was an assistant to Rex Casner, who resigned after the team won the Class 4A tournament.

Scheer, a former Newman women's coach, implemented a four-guard lineup to surround post Merissa Quick. The combination of speed and power has been difficult to contain.

"I put in a lot of stuff that I used to run," Scheer said. "When I was at Newman, one year we had four guards that could shoot it and one post player. We've done a lot of stuff that I've brought back when we have quickness and pressure full court."

Scheer coached at Newman from 1997 to 2005 and was named the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year in 2003. His daughter Payton was about to start middle school and he wanted to be around to watch her play basketball, so he took a teaching and assistant coaching job at Cheney in 2005.

Back then, Scheer didn't expect to become Cheney's coach. The team had been running variants of Scheer's offense since he arrived, and he knew the strengths and limitations of the current players.

"Our practices are definitely a lot more intense," said Payton Scheer, one of Cheney's starting guards. "We don't get as many breaks. We're expected to go hard the entire 90 minutes of practice. We lift weights a lot more. We're a lot more focused. He definitely brings that college intensity."

Payton said that the transition in coaching style and in the practices were tough to adjust to at first, but the players have seen improvement in their individual games and as a team. That includes the 6-foot-3 Quick.

Scheer's system has put more of a focus on Quick. She doesn't have graduated 6-1 post player Courtney Traxson to grab an average of 8.5 rebounds and provide another scoring threat in the paint. She is the only post presence, and it's made her improve her game.

"I feel like I have to be a lot more of a physical player this year and I have to rebound a lot more," Quick said. "They expect me to get those rebounds because they're ready to run and they're ready to get out and run the break."

Quick, who's signed with Emporia State, has a defined role that has helped team chemistry.

The Cardinals have been outscoring opponents an average of 55-34 and even won their first 10 games without last season's leading scorer Ally Nikkel, who had been recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear since the summer.

Quick credited the team's success without Nikkel to freshmen Taylor Needham and Carlea Holt.

Nikkel's presence, however, provides a scoring threat that is difficult to replicate. In her third game back she scored 16 points in a 40-30 win over Haven .

"It felt like it was a comeback," Nikkel said. "It was a big confidence booster to let me know that I can play like I used to."

With Nikkel back in the lineup and the rest of the team in a groove, stopping Cheney could prove to be more troublesome than ever.

"We are a team that wants to win, and we're not a selfish team," Payton Scheer said. "I think we will do anything to get us back in that position. We know how it feels to win a state championship and all of us want it again."